Maimonides celebrates Black History Month, Motown-style

February 10, 2016 Jaime DeJesus
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In honor of Black History Month, Maimonides Medical Center, 4802 10th Avenue, held an event for students at Saint Mark School and P.S. 100, and senior citizens from Saint Gabriel’s Senior Center that included a special performance by current and past members of the cast of the popular Broadway show, “Motown: The Musical.”

President and CEO of Maimonides Kenneth Gibbs stressed the significance of the occasion.

“How could we not support this event? This is so central to what we are about and who we are. We define ourselves with a mission statement and with values,” he said. “Our mission statement is about serving the community and this event is about respecting a community.

“An event like this is incredibly important and it is fundamentally a celebration and it is important and its values are not just for today,” he added.

The event’s keynote speaker, the Honorable Sylvia Hinds-Radix, associate justice, New York State Appellate Division, explained the month to the students, mentioning historic figures such as Carter Woodson, the father of Black History Month, which began as Negro History Week in Chicago, as well as civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Rosa Parks, who sparked the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in 1955.

“What we misunderstand is the inclusiveness of black history. As we celebrate it as black people, we don’t celebrate black history just to the exclusion of other people,” she explained. “We celebrate it as inclusive in this nation. We demonstrate what we’ve done to bring this nation to where we are.”

Being that the event was Motown-themed, Hinds-Radix also spoke about the importance of music and African-American culture.

“For decades, discrimination was endured and a lot of these artists didn’t find it easy being able to get records sold, but people like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder told people what it was like to be black in America,” she said. “ For black people, our history and our voices get heard through music. We could never forget the slaves and messages they gave, [through hymns] like ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.’ Music continues to play an integral role in black culture.”

Once the speakers concluded, four current and past members of the Motown musical, Lauren Lim Jackson, Monette McKay, Syndee Winters and Dwayne Cooper, performed a melody of hit tunes from the musical, much to the delight of attendees who sang and danced along.

“There is a sense of love and warmth in this building,” said Reverend Eddie Alleyne of St. Gabriel’s Church. “It’s wonderful to be part of this historical occasion.”

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